ELECTRIC 1939 DODGE TRUCK

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ELECTRIC 1939 DODGE TRUCK

Post by rich on Mon Sep 29, 2014 8:38 pm



One thing you can say about Al Gajda without much fear of contradiction: he has the quietest truck in Lexington.

Some trucks rattle your windows when they pass. Others are so loud that children cower in fear and brave dogs run for cover.

But even newborns sleep in perfect peace when Gajda drives past in his 1939 Dodge pickup. It makes hardly a whisper.

To a casual observer, the Dodge looks like nothing more than just an old truck that runs particularly smoothly. The secret lies underneath.

It's an electric truck.

Electrical vehicles are catching on in dealer showrooms today as gasoline becomes ever more expensive and environmental concerns grow.

But Gajda, 74, didn't buy his. He built it.

A mainly self-taught electronics wizard, he spent more than three years replacing the truck's old six-cylinder flathead engine with a modern all-electric system built around a series wound direct current motor.

He's driven the truck more than 5,000 miles since completing the work about a year ago.

"It's my daily driver," he said. "I take advantage of any excuse to drive it; just banging around town, errands, short runs on the interstate, delivering my granddaughter to school in the morning."

The Dodge's power comes from an 80-cell rechargeable lithium ion phosphate battery that sits in a polished wooden box in the truck bed. Each cell is about the size of a Manhattan phone book and weighs around 12 pounds.

"I've got about half a ton of batteries," Gajda says.

He says he can drive about 100 miles on one battery charge, enough for quite a bit of "banging around town" before he has to plug the truck into an electrical outlet and recharge. That takes about six hours.

He says the old truck gets lots of admiring looks from people. But most probably don't realize it's electrically powered and are interested just because the truck is so old.

Somehow, Gajda says, they don't seem to notice the "High Voltage" warning signs mounted on the battery box.

"If I park it at Lowe's or Home Depot, there'll be people looking at it when I come back," he said. "But I usually have to tell them it's electric."

Gajda, who grew up in Massachusetts, bought the '39 Dodge in New Hampshire about 40 years ago. He hauled it from home to home as he moved around the country for the next few decades, figuring he'd eventually turn it into a hot rod.

Then, he got interested in electrical power. Not surprising, given his background.

Though Gajda has no college degree, he spent 30 years working in electronics for IBM, and later for various computer and software companies.

"I'm self-taught," he said. "I did high school and tech school and then got hired by IBM. I thought for a long time that I should get a degree, but IBM kept sending me to schools and I thought I was progressing all right. When computers came in, I got into that."

Gajda moved to Lexington a little more than 20 years ago, and when he retired a few years back he finally had time to work on the truck.

The result is an intriguing mix of old and new.

The 75-year-old truck's bodywork is entirely original. The old three-speed manual transmission remains, except it's now hooked to an electric motor. Even the steering wheel is original. The "gas" pedal is still there too, but now it feeds juice to the electric power plant.

Under the hood, there is a complex jungle of wiring, a large green electrical controller that hides the electric engine located just below. The dashboard has digital readouts for things like voltage levels, and all the lighting is by LED. The truck even has a keyless entry system.

There is, however, no power steering.

Essentially all the work on the truck was done in Gajda's basement.

According to Gajda, the electric motor came from a California company that builds engines for converting vehicles to electricity. He bought the lithium battery pack from a company in China.

Step on the accelerator and the truck takes off smartly, with tire noise and the whine of the manual tranny providing the clamor.

Gajda says the electric motor has so much torque that he can drive away from a dead stop in any gear. Usually, though, he starts in first or second gear and then shifts.

So, what'll she do?

"Seventy-five," Gajda says. "That's as fast as I've dared to drive it. At 75 I back off, although it's still accelerating at that speed."

Gajda takes the truck to car shows, where it draws crowds of people who have lots of questions once they realize it's electric.

"I've had so much fun with this thing," he said.

For now, Gajda has no plans to customize the truck, or turn it into a show vehicle. But he might add power steering one of these days.

"It's kind of hard to steer at low speeds," he admits.

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Re: ELECTRIC 1939 DODGE TRUCK

Post by R.A.D on Sat Oct 04, 2014 9:58 am

interesting.. it may be coming to that LOL

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